Not bad for someone who is the only musically-inclined member of his family.
“My mom can’t carry a tune and my brother and sister both tried playing instruments but quit in middle school,” said Martin, a Salem High School senior.
Martin plays the flute, bassoon, clarinet, tenor and alto saxophones. Not to mention, this year he was named the school’s drum major.
“But tenor saxophone is where my heart is,” Martin said.
It is his heart, and, according to the panel that selects the top 125 high school students from across the country to play in the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band, his true talent.
Come Jan. 4, Martin will be taking the field with the All-American Marching Band during the half-time show of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He earned the honor after sending in an audition tape on what he calls a whim.
“I never in a million years thought they would pick me,” Martin said. “I’m just a normal guy who can’t stop smiling thanks to this prestigious honor.”
For this “normal” high school senior, the all-expenses paid trip to San Antonio, Texas for the Bowl-week festivities certainly didn’t come without its obligations. For the past two months, Martin has been practicing musical selections alone in his room, memorizing complicated scores and videotaping his work to demonstrate mastery. Only after sending his tapes to the panel did he earn his plane ticket for Texas.
Still, Martin hasn’t had much time to enjoy the anticipation of playing in a nationally televised performance — not while juggling his AP classes, swimming backstroke on the Salem swim team and preparing for college band auditions.
“I don’t think of myself as the exception, every student has a juggling act they are trying to keep up with so they don’t drop something,” he said. “I want to be good and stay balanced and just make everything I do quality, so I just keep juggling.”
And for Martin that most certainly means using music as an outlet. He lives for the marching band and dreams of being a pit musician for a major Broadway show. He wants to start his own jazz band. He uses classical music to “let loose and relax.” He also spends hours watching other high school marching bands on YouTube videos to compare his style to competing high school students and to prepare for his college auditions.
And others are watching him on YouTube as well.
The hardest piece Martin said he has ever had to master was Gene Paul’s “Estilian Caprice”, a solo he performed his freshman year for a competition. A quick YouTube search will land you that audition video (plus a few other fun gems from Martin’s younger days), but mentioning it does make this easy-going high school senior blush.
“I spent months trying to learn to play at that rate since it was a college level piece,” Martin said. “I love YouTube but I sometimes forget that stuff is out there.”
Martin has come a long way from that freckled freshman with big hopes for a musical career. He counts his selection to the All-American Marching Band as one of his biggest successes to date, and he credits Salem High School band director Brian Webb for being the influence that led to his musical accomplishments. Like Martin, Webb is a tenor saxophonist with a love for jazz.
“He gives me a different view of music and helps me to see things in a way I never dreamed,” he said. “Mr. Webb pushes me to play better and lets me know that it’s okay to not always be perfect, especially since I’m my own worst critic.”
For Webb, the musical admiration is mutual.
“What sets Corey apart from other band students is his work ethic, attention to detail, playing ability and also his ability to play multiple instruments at a high level,” Webb said. “He’s just an outstanding musician and student.”
Compass Keeper Q&A:
What is your pet peeve?
“People that wear sandals with socks — I find that really irritating, I mean you can see their sock through the toe thingy.”
What is your favorite movie?
“Freedom Writers” with Hillary Swank.
Who do you admire?
“My sister Anastasia. She works so hard and pushes herself to always do better and I really look up to her.”
Do you have any advice for those interested in learning an instrument?
“Don’t give up. You’re not going to be very good when you first start and you will want to quit. You have to want it — you have to work for it and keep practicing. You have to constantly push yourself.”
*Do you know someone who should be featured as a Compass Keeper? Send your nomination to email@example.com.